Portugal Travel Tips

Travel Tips-Lisbon, Portugal

1.) While some cities’ “tourist cards” are deemed not worth it in terms of overall price versus the cost of attractions you actually want to visit, the Lisboa Card definitely is. Not only does it offer free access to many of the city’s popular attractions (Jeronimos Monastery, Belem Tower, the Tile Museum, the Coach Museum), as well as discounted rates to other attractions (Castelo de Sao Jorge and Monument to the Discoveries), it also has free access to those attractions outside of the city’s limits, specifically those in the Sintra area (the National Palace, Queluz). Another major plus is that with the Lisboa card one rides free on public transportation, so whether you’re taking a tram, bus, metro or even a funicular, it’s free. This was terrific when riding on the Elevador de Santa Justa. Normally tickets are five Euros per person for adults; simply show your card and you’re on. You can purchase the passes at numerous locales in the Lisbon area but if you’re an American, I highly recommend ordering yours on Expedia as you will be charged in American dollars and not Euros, thus saving some money. If you do purchase through Expedia, you simply print out your voucher at home and exchange it at a tourism office in the Praça do Comércio.

2.) By all accounts Lisbon definitely seemed like a safe city but just like any large metropolitan area, it has some negative aspects too. I’ve never been to Amsterdam and can’t comment on the free flowing drug culture there, but in Lisbon you will be constantly propositioned by gentlemen asking you if you want to buy drugs. Thankfully I was never bothered with this but D would be asked multiple times in the course of a night when we were out walking. It’s not that we were in places of ill repute. Rather we were in the touristy areas, but I suppose this is where the dealers feel are the best to conduct business. Unlike some of the panhandlers who would harass you when dining outside (at one point I had to sternly say go away in Spanish to a woman who would not leave our table), simply shaking your head and walking on seemed to do the trick with the drug dealers. I’m not sure about the legalities of drug use in Portugal but it was a bit of a shame that the police don’t do more to crack down on this, since it  negatively colors a city for visiting tourists who don’t want to be bothered.

3.) If you travel to Lisbon during the warmer weather, comfortable walking shoes, sun screen and water are absolute musts. As our bed and breakfast host explained, since Lisbon is at sea level (unlike Sintra which is in the mountains), the weather is much hotter, the sun more intense. I stupidly didn’t apply sun screen the first two days we were in Portugal and got embarrassingly burned (I never tan, I just burn), but once we arrived in Lisbon, I applied sun block each and every morning. Also, I am all for being smartly dressed and I do try to achieve this when I travel. However, footwear is always a constant battle for me. Even though they are hardly fashionable, sometimes you just have to wear sneakers and I did when we were in Sintra. However, I didn’t want to in Lisbon since it was so hot. Before I left I purchased Croc sandals (yes, Crocs makes footwear besides its somewhat lame looking plastic clogs). They were pretty fashionable looking but more important, they were extremely comfortable; I walked all over Lisbon wearing them and never had any issues. The amount of female tourists I saw in heels and wedge sandals was astounding, especially considering they were traipsing over cobblestone streets and hiking up steep hills. Lastly, water is key. Thankfully bottled water is relatively cheap in Lisbon, something I didn’t remember being the case in Paris. I hate having to cart around so many articles when touring and yet in Lisbon where in the sun temperatures were in the low 90s, one needs to stay hydrated. As stunning as the weather was, when we return to Portugal, we’d most likely visit in the spring or fall, before the heat has descended on the city.

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10 Comments

  • Reply
    Delusions of Grandeur
    October 4, 2012 at 2:16 pm

    Hi there! Found you through Sara in Le Petit Village and am so glad I did. Fellow redhead and travel lover here. 🙂 I spend a good chunk of my 20’s living in Spain and traveling everywhere I could afford on my teacher’s salary. I’m halfway through a PhD right now and traveling has had to take a backseat, so I’ll live vicariously through you in the meantime. Lisbon is lovely and I hope you’re having a great time! A day trip to Sintra would definitely be worth the time if you have a chance.

  • Reply
    the red headed traveler
    October 4, 2012 at 10:46 pm

    I’m happy you found my blog and thanks so much for commenting especially from a fellow red head! I did indeed visit Sintra (we actually stayed in the region for 3 nights which gave us lots of time to explore). I loved Portugal a ton-very Europeanesque and yet so distinct from any other place I’ve visited over there.

    I can’t wait to return to Spain especially to one day explore the region of Galicia (I’m hugely fascinated by it) although I of course would give due credit to my beloved Sevilla too 🙂

    Good luck with your PhD, that’s such an accomplishment!

    • Reply
      Delusions of Grandeur
      October 6, 2012 at 7:49 pm

      I agree with you – Portugal is really unique, and wasn’t Sintra magical?! You will love Galicia – IMHO, Galicia, Asturias and Cantabria are some of the most stunning parts of Spain. (I went to Spain originally for what was supposed to be an 8-week study abroad program in Santander and ended up staying four years! Although I wasn’t on the northern coast the entire time). I did the Camino de Santiago and crossing over the mountains from Castilla y Leon into Galicia was truly one of the most amazing experiences of my life. I love meeting other Spain lovers. 🙂 I tried my hardest to stay there and had hoped to make it my permanent home, but the downturn in the economy made it virtually impossible to find a job that would have allowed me to live comfortably. That said, I’m saving up for a piso one day!

    • Reply
      the red headed traveler
      October 7, 2012 at 12:14 am

      Sintra was a genuine gem! I’m so glad to have actually stayed in the region as opposed to just visiting for the day. I’ve heard incredible things about northern Spain. On my first ever trip to Europe I did visit San Sebastian which compared some people, I didn’t find too mesmerizing but perhaps I was too young to fully appreciate it (I visited when I was 18). However, I am dying to do the Camino de Santiago (or at least part of it). While I loved “fiery” Andalusia, from the pictures I’ve seen of the verdant scenery in Galicia I think would be stunning. I always find it amazing that compared to the U.S. Spain is small but Spain within itself is still quite large. I was always tired after taking the bus from Sevilla to Madrid (6 hours) and so I never quite had it in me to do a ride that would have been double the ride. Of course I studied there before Vueling got so big and expanded its scope which would have made domestic travel much easier 🙂
      That’s awesome you lived there for four years! I would love one day to return to my former study abroad haunts and just “live” there again as opposed to just traveling and passing through. I can imagine living in Spain is quite difficult these days with their high unemployment rates and other economic downturns. I hope you’ll achieve your piso dream one day though!

  • Reply
    ~Holly~
    October 5, 2012 at 8:36 am

    Thanks for the tips. Portugal is definitely on the top of my list! Your tips will come in handy when I finally make the trek!

  • Reply
    the red headed traveler
    October 5, 2012 at 11:38 am

    With pleasure! It was a terrific country and definitely unvisited by the American tourist demographic 🙂

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